Monday, June 29, 2020

Poetry by Tad Richards!

I'm going to let Tad tell us about the picture above and his first poem below:

"There's a story that goes with this, and a picture. The picture is a portrait of Alexander Steinert by my grandfather, Frank Perley Fairbanks. Frank was a winner of the Prix de Rome, and a chancellor of the American Academy of Arts in Rome, and this is one of a series of portraits he did of his fellow Prix de Rome winners in the 1920s and 30s.

Alexander Steinert was from the Steinway family, and he studied with Ravel. His career may not have gone exactly the way he had planned it, but he made a successful living writing music, and my guess is that if we were to see "The Devil Bat's Daughter," we'd find that it was pretty good music."


Alexander Steinert
winner of
the Prix de Rome
for composition
in  1931

now described
even by the
Academy as
“largely forgotten” still
found himself

in Hollywood
played the role of a
symphony orchestra
in Too Young to

Kiss with Van Johnson
conducted the soundtrack
for Bambi
and composed the
original score

for Strangler of the Swamp
The Unknown
Blondie Knows Best
Target for Today
The Devil Bat’s Daughter


But all stories are
lies and few
if any have a point
and if they do
best not to trust them

take this one
with its half dressed woman
in the second
stanza offering
untold bliss

or the grime caked miser
who promises
mention in his will
for morphine
he’s in the third stanza

by the fourth you
you start to question
his motives
her fictive complaisance
you’re better off

listening to a
solo by
Dizzy Gillespie or
Charlie Parker
there’s truth in no words


The dancer:

Teach me the truth of stillness. Let me know
Xylem and phloem coursing from my roots,
Let me feel spring with new-curled leaves and shoots,
Band me with rings to mark each year I grow.

The tree:
Show me the way to freedom from the cruel
Strictures of nature: when the wind blows west
To east, let me bend east to west, to rule
My destiny, choose when to move or rest.

You may remember the next poem from the last time Tad appeared at The Song Is...


George Wallington played
in Dizzy's first bebop
combo on 52nd Street
in 1960 he gave
up jazz, went home
to Florida, joined
the family business
air conditioners. Wendell
Marshall played with Ellington,
Coleman Hawkins,
Milt Jackson, Gerry
Mulligan, gave it up,
went back to St.
Louis, started his own
insurance agency. Teddy
Charles played swing,
played bebop, played
the far out stuff,
played with Miles, with
Mingus, with Wardell
Gray, gave it up
to get his captain's papers,
skipper a charter
skipjack on Long Island
Sound, in the Caribbean.
I’d go for that.

The picture above is of Teddy Charles at the Iridium jazz club in 2008.  In that year, his last two albums were released.

I had a hard time finding a YouTube video with Alexander Steinert's music.  This nearly thirteen minute video includes his Danse exotique:

The sound is terrible, but it gives you an idea of what the soundtrack of The Devil Bat's Daughter was like:

Steinert conducted the orchestra in the 1942 film Bambi:

I'll finish with some videos of Teddy Charles.  The first is "Laura," a song that he did with his quartet.  The bass player was Charles Mingus:

The other is "Jay Walkin'," again with Mingus on bass:

This version of "Night in Tunisia" is from Charles' 2008 album with the Walter Wolff Trio:

Friday, June 26, 2020

Words by Shanti Harjani Williams and Images by Carl Scharwath

Tonight I would like to share with you poet Shanti Harjani Williams and visual artist Carl Scharwath's collaboration.  The mixed media piece above is Carl's work, and the poem below is Shanti's response to it.

Beating heart

Her heart is held in never ending corridors

That wind up like a grandfather clock
Imposing entry and psychedelic interludes
Spinning a turntable on its head
Walk this way and focus on the vision
Nakedness breathes through beckoning bodice
Not far enough away
The heart lies hidden well beyond the entrance hallway
But resist the impulse to look
But find the night well into itself
With claws that dig throughout the day
Move the upper chamber and kiss between the walls
Centre aisle gets you a good view of her twisted beauty
You die quickly with her loving you 
And salvation comes early..


(c) Shanti Harjani Williams 2019
Oil painting by 
Carl Scharwath (woman painted, double exposed with photography)


Last weekend my husband and I listened to a fabulous streaming concert with Warren Wolf, Sean Jones, and others.  Here is their last song, Woody Shaw's "To Kill a Brick":

I'll also include their version of Bobby Hutcheson's "Theme from Blow Up":


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A Visit from Ryan Quinn Flanagan

This afternoon I'd like to post some poems from Ryan Quinn Flanagan.  If you follow poetry, you may have seen his poems at Under the Bleachers, 1870, Chiron Review, and other places.  You may even have seen that he has a few books out right now.  If you haven't, what have you been waiting for?!?

The Tail


Rasmussen was supposed to report

back each week.


To tail the target to dinners and meetings.

To take pictures and jot down notes,

names of the faces if he could get them.


The file kept expanding until new files

had to be opened on the others

and who they were meeting.


Soon, Rasmussen felt he was being watched.

He could not prove it any more than his target could.


There was a dire threat to the country,

Rasmussen was sure of that.


He just hoped no one was trying to prove it was him.

The target seemed oblivious, but Rasmussen could no longer

be certain of that.


Perhaps this was all an elaborate ruse to net him.

He could feel his throat closing and he

didn’t know why.


A tiny sound came from down the alley

and Rasmussen turned to find a cat.


He couldn’t be sure how long it had

been watching him.


Its tail hooked like the end of a life-saving pole

at the public pool.


Those tiny eyes of murder

betraying nothing.

Pretending to be an Airport


The local airport is not really an airport at all.

There is a single landing strip which the rednecks

use for the drag races each summer.

There are folding bleachers setup for the crowds

which can just fold back in when the airport

is back to pretending to be an airport.

No one ever takes off or lands from there.

Just a single orange grounded helicopter in case of emergency.

And one building that is always closed.

No one works there, but come racing season

the bleachers are packed.

Cut right out of the Canadian wilderness.

Grease monkeys running around with wrenches.

Racing helmets with tinted visors for all the drivers.

A place to tailgate and four outhouses

brought in for the occasion.

Photograph by Theresa Otera


Any Turn of the Soil Left to You


I have these gallant-less earthworm weapons buried everywhere

so that you are probably walking over a few of them as she speaks to you

on matters of etiquette and you wonder who will win the World Series –

the converted doomsday silo idiots are down here too

and as much as I don’t wish to share real-estate with a raving

beard of bees, necessity dictates a certain measure of closeness

approaching a near hug or moaning love bug dalliance so the planets can

feel good about being rocks

            is it half-true that your hubby is legally blind

from the waist down?

 any turn of the soil left to you I guess and you who always

thought yourself a city girl; if you couldn’t have quiet at least

you had options which are simply weapons of choice in the maniacal

industrial complex or something a little less alarmist if your

devilish sensibilities read dirty books before bed

            (I have never understood the cinder blocks of sadism,

            perhaps I am infertile and idiot children are beyond me)

I am better prepared than the combined fire departments of the next

three counties which means I have assured myself of the uninsurable

and that gentleman callers in the Freudian sense will dig through

dumpsters of junk science to find something to throw up

in front of your face that is not a mirror.

New Daily Phishing Scam


My wife opens up her email and laughs.

The daily phishing scams are getting more inventive

all the time.


The one this morning read:


Dear Influential Individual…

and suggested that joining the Illuminati

for a limited time would be a great way

to make money.


I like that the Is in both Influential and Individual

are capitalized,

I say.

Shows you just how Important and Influential

you are.


My wife laughs

and tells me the address is:


How official, I say.


You’d think if I was so Influential that I would

already be part of the Illuminati, wouldn’t you?

she asks.


Well, it sounds legit and we could use the money,

so you better go ahead and sign up,

I say.


I’ll get right on that,

she says.


And then she is off to the kitchen to make her coffee.


It is nice to have a good laugh in the morning.

The phishing scam people did us real solid

this morning.





He wants to know if anyone

has seen his watch,

but no one pays attention.


He feels the naked sun line along his wrist

where his watch should be,

gets down on all fours to search

under chairs.


A man under the table is licking the carpet

and quickly swats him away.

Tells him he will ruin it for everyone


He stands up and asks again

if anyone has seen his watch.


Nobody even looks at him.

They just keep drinking and laughing


He dig into the punchbowl for his watch

and comes up with lemons.


Sliced nice and thin

with a knife

and probably not

a watch.

Don’t Ever Call A Chipmunk Squirrely


They are already crazy

and on edge

and then you throw shade their way

by implying they are a lowly squirrel,

their largest competition for nuts.


Don’t ever call a chipmunk squirrely,

just don’t!

You will see their tails rise up

as they charge down the fence line

towards you.


They are seriously unhinged

and now you have given them a reason.

They will start to appear in numbers.

As word travels about this latest

affront to all Chipmunkdom.


Then you have a problem.

And all the squirrels in the world

won’t help you.


With this last poem, I have to play a version of "Nutville." This one is by the Central Washington University Jazz Band:

This is their version of "A Little Minor Booze":

"Wide Open Spaces" goes with "Pretending to be an Airport":

I'll finish with their version of "Rhythm-a-Ning":

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Catching up with Ann Christine Tabaka

Today let's catch up with Ann Christine Tabaka, an accomplished poet from Delaware.  These poems have been published elsewhere, but I am always happy to republish wonderful poetry.  Just be sure to note where the poems originally appeared as Christine does.  Also, she provided links to the Poets Lounge's readings of her poems.  They are below each poem.

Dust to Dust

Apple pie mornings,

childhood scraped knee,

take me away again.

Words spoken in secret

to ears that won’t hear

rattle around in the wind.

Once upon a times

don’t exist anymore,

the universe swallowed them whole.

Hand held friendships

hopscotch off,

chalk washed clean with tears.

Distant moves,

letters few, then none.

Woeful news arrives.

Missed laughter,

tucked beneath the earth.

Another venerable sidekick

dances with the dust.

*   Published by The Pangolin Review, April 2019

Photograph by NC Department of Transportation

Living Water

Water …

Cool, refreshing, life sustaining.

Absent, all breath perishes.

The river that flows down to the sea

is born in the mountains high.

A marriage of snow-melt and rain,

an ancient love story of myth.

Trickling, sparkling, growing,

pregnant with life, a union for all ages.

Moisture laden clouds bestow

their gift upon the earth.

All that is living sing praise

to waters from above.

Enduring journey over rocks and pain,

continuing to the sandy shores of time.

Reflecting all that was before

and all there is to be. 

Rain …

a soothing, melodic patter,

or a devastating downpour.

Both blessing and bane.

Yet we cannot live without it.

Water …

A reminder of where we came from,

and where we are to end. 

Prismed droplets, a rainbow’s tribute

upon the thirsty earth.

*   Published by Voice of Eve, March 2019

Photograph by Alan Levine

Dry Spell

Fissured mud,

dry, hard, gray.

So many interlacing

fingers reaching out

in every direction,

crumble to the touch.

Arid summer,

sucking the breath from life.

Languishing thirst.

Wilted flora bow their heads.

Fallen warriors lack resilience

to withstand the furnace blast.

Parched earth,

crying out for sustenance.

No clouds in sight.

Not a drop of compassion

to be found.

Cruel season of drought,

unexpected curse.

Farmers pass their hats

and lay low,

hands folded in prayer.

Rotted fruit.

Tiny shriveled globes of despair.

Shrunken heads

hang limp and forlorn

upon dying hosts.

Time stands still.

Torrid air strangles all

within its grasp.

I exhale the dragon

from my lungs.

Scorched clay drifts from my hand,

dispersed into the atmosphere. 

Well of hope, dry as dust.

Foreign to some years,

a vengeance in others.

All promise lost,

walking away

Then …

faces turn upward

in disbelief,

as forgiveness rains from the sky

*   Published by North of Oxford, December 2018

Street Corner

Alligator skin and button eyes.

The devil himself would cry

at seeing such a man.

Twisted hand held out in despair,

begging for a pittance.

Gaping wound of hunger

weeps out injustice spent for a dime.

Cardboard castle and newspaper

bed against a bitter cold blast of truth.

Breath held tight in defiance to a

storm of unrepented sins.

Again, and yet again I say,

but for the grace ….

Time turning orange to brown,

fingers aching blue.

Discarded man, hunched figure,

a pile of rags upon the sidewalk.

Head bowed low, not in contrition.

Empty shell with hollow stare.

Words of ice melted by the fire

of unforgiving masses.

No one sees, no one cares.

A procession of woe slowly

spirals ever downward into

a whirlpool of the damned.

Tear stained vision of

impassioned pain, forever cursed

to walk this earth alone,

calling street corner home.

But for the grace …

*   Published by Voice of Eve, March 2019

Tomorrow Never Comes

Hope hides under the bed,

a forgotten pair of shoes,

waiting for the next journey,

that never seems to come.

Low crouching, grasping reach,

searching for the prize. Brushing

off cobwebs of old memories

seeking rebirth, with no recollection

of a time that came before.

Death is a reality that cannot

be ignored.  Marching along

a wooden walkway, destiny

holds out a foreboding hand.

Hours passed in darkness, traveling

over unknown landscape. I hear

but cannot see. A thin veil of faith disguising

all my sins. Tomorrow comes too quickly

when tomorrow never comes.

*   Published by Sheila-Na-Gig online, September 2018

During the pandemic we have lost a number of jazz and other musicians.  One was Wallace Roney.  Here are a few of his songs.

Here is his "Blue in Green," a song that Miles Davis wrote:

The music picks up a little with "Alone Together":

I'll finish with his "Obsession" from 1991: